Tag Archive: Acting


Drama and performance is a passion for me so I was really pleased when I was asked to take over the Performing Arts club. We’ve got a bunch of very talented and enthusiastic children this year, and they’ve been working super hard since January to put together a show based on (a topic of their choice) Welsh Myths and Legends.

We’ve seen everything – from costume confusion to corpsing to totally improvised dialogue! Now we’ve got two weeks left until the performance date. Rehearsals are going well but that anxious ‘oh-my-goodness-two-weeks-left’ feeling is starting to trouble me. We’ve got a child who doesn’t know how to yawn, a tyrannical barber’s wife and I’m having to give lessons in villainy at lunch time. The children have done a fabulous job at learning their lines so I’m not too concerned about that, but I am concerned about what I can do to aid their performance. They’ve worked tremendously hard – fashioning a story, a script and creating some brilliant performances – so they deserve the best support they can get. So it’s a shorter blog post from me this week, because I’m neck-deep in music-editing, prop-sourcing and set-designing.  Wish us luck!

Image result for roanoke AHS‘The old magic and new world created something new. Something original.’

I have a new obsession.

American Horror Story should be something that doesn’t interest me. It’s got all the ingredients of a show I’d usually hate – gore, cruel deaths and human jerky. However, despite it appearing to be a beast that is Anti-Rebellious G…..I absolutely love it.

I watched the first season, Murder House, about two years ago. It was around Halloween and feeling uncharacteristically in need of a scare, I came across season one. I was hooked from the beginning (despite having to shield my eyes from the titles.) I loved everything from its gritty characters to creepy sets to gripping (if a little whacky) plots. It was fresh and totally different to my usual viewing. Its also perfect October television. Best watched on dark nights with a cup of tea (and a pillow to hide behind).

Two years and six seasons later I am up to date. Friday nights in Roanoke are one of the highlights of the week. I always thought Asylum was the strongest season. Until now.

After the penultimate episode of season 6, I think Roanoke is the best season to date. And here’s why.Image result for roanoke AHS audrey gif

Firstly, the producers have made it obvious from the start that this season was going to be full of twists and even had us guessing months before episode one transmitted, as creators refused to reveal the theme. Even after episode one it was still unclear. The shift in format to a documentary-style narrative was interesting but writers were wise to end it mid-series and give us another twist – Return to Roanoke. The idea to continue the reality theme and give us a bloody Big Brother – mixing classic horror with the modern obsession with reality – was brilliant and it was good to see AHS favourites such as Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters and Angela Basset have some fun with their characters (multiple characters in this season’s case). For me though, the star of this season is Kathy Bates. You can’t help but feel for Agnes at some points during the season (especially episode six. N’awww) but it’s when that familiar murderous look flashes across her eyes and she starts going cray-cray with an axe that she really shines. (‘I am the tree and lightning that strikes it’.)

The whole season has just been so cleverly written and performed. Even Bates’quirky celtic accent turned out to be intentionally so after we met the desperate, obsessive actress behind the Butcher. The pivotal episode six had some great TV moments. It took the concepts of the first five episodes and rejuvenated them, twisting the season completely on its head. The writers explored every reality TV feature – distant action, confession booths and even characters eating cereal during dramatic arguments. It also seemed to poke fun at actors, with luvvy Audrey bragging about her Saturn nomination and Agnes proclaiming passionately that ‘there are only two great roles in the American canon. Mary Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey….and…..the Butcher’.

The comedy in this series has also been excellently and subtly done, coming mostly from the ‘actors’ from the re-enactment. Audrey and Rory’s overly-sickening wedding video is a stand-out moment, as well as Audrey taking the time to wallow in self-indulgence when she finds Shelby’s body. (‘Oh, God! I feel like part of me has died with her!’)

AHS also has plenty of treats for its fans. In recent seasons we’ve been treated to re-appearances of popular characters (such as Queenie, Marcy and Pepper) and next week sees the return of Lana Winters. It’ll be interesting to see how Lana interacts with series survivor Lee and whether all the answers to this season’s big questions will be wrapped up. I’m sure we’ll get a few unexpected twists and Sarah Paulson will continue to be fantastic as she steps back into Lana Banana’s shoes.

Roanoke has raced along with all the speed of three teens being chased through the woods by a pig man, but the shorter, streamlined season and the fresh new format has only left us itching for more. Cosy Friday nights won’t be the same without showers of teeth, forest dwelling cannibals and murderous nurses.

Image result for roanoke AHS agnes gif

With last week’s sad news about the brilliant Victoria Wood, I wanted to share my top five Wood moments. Writer, actress and stand-up comic – her talent was endless and she’s a huge loss to the entertainment world.

Number 5 – Dolly thinks she’s accidentally taken Viagra.

I loved Dinnerladies when I was growing up. I would sneakily stay awake and watch it quietly in my room. I loved the relationships between the characters and, although I was only around ten at the time, I would grow up to recognise those characters in everyday life. Victoria had a skill for creating characters that were so rounded and real. One stand-out moment – and there were almost too many to choose from – is from ‘Christine’ when Dolly thinks she has accidentally taken Viagra after picking up the wrong mug of tea, resulting in a hilarious, warbling, anxiety-ridden tirade from Dolly. I have had the pleasure of knowing a real-life Dolly and I always chuckle to myself and think of her during this scene.

‘What will it do to a woman? Where will it go? What will happen when it gets down there and finds there’s nothing to pump up! It’ll be like a range rover going top speed into a cul-de-sac!’

Brilliant performance from Thelma Barlow, and brilliant writing from Victoria.

Number 4 – ‘I might have to smash your face in with a tin of beans.’

Again, from the episode ‘Christine’, this deadpan delivery from Bren stands for Wood’s talent as an actress as well as a writer. In Bren, she has created a character who we can all empathise with. She’s witty and kind but not without her faults. Bren is down to earth. Everyone knows a Bren. She mixes up words and slips in ‘do-dahs’ and ‘thingmajigs’ like so many people I know (including myself). Bren is continuously thoughtful towards others, even those we who don’t deserve it, like her mother, who constantly takes advantage of her. Bren is the hub of the canteen and an underated comedy character.

Tony: So you’re not pregnant then.

Bren: Not unless sperm can get through a sash window.

Number 3 – The Large Woman in a Cake Shop

I chose Victoria Wood: At it again to study as part of my A Level English Language course. I had to watch the DVD over and over again and write a transcript of it. It was hilarious and even though I had to watch it so many times it never got old and I still laugh about it today. I still think about the following gag whenever I go into a cake shop.

If you’re big in this country, eating is a very shameful thing. You can’t imagine this scenario in England: Big woman goes into a cake shop and says ‘I would like a cake please. It is for me. I am going to eat it myself.’ It couldn’t happen, could it? She would have to go in and say ‘Erm…can I have a cake please? Erm…a woman has collapsed two streets away and, erm, I think it’s a diabetic coma. On the other hand it could be head injuries, in which case, I’ll eat it myself.’

Number 2 – Two Soups

I don’t need to say much about this one. It’s just brilliant. Written by Wood but with cracking performances. Enjoy.

Number 1 – The Ballad of Barry and Freda

Z and I were only singing this last week. Fantastic lyrics and a very catchy tune. Be prepared to have this stuck in your head for the rest of the week. Have a listen, it’s a treat!

It’s amazing how much Victoria has contributed to the entertainment world. She has made me laugh so many times and will always be one of my comedy heroes.

This week it was announced that viewing a live theatrical production will no longer be a requirement of some GCSE Drama courses as of September.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to read that I think that’s rubbish.

How can students be expected to value and appreciate the magic of the theatre without ever stepping inside one? I go to the theatre regularly and the pre-show buzz and atmosphere is just as exciting as the performance. It’s all part of the experience.

Exam boards have said teachers may opt to show students recordings of productions instead but, in my view, that is no substitute for the real thing. Yes, recording of works released by companies such as National Theatre Live are an excellent resource for our schools, but students still need to be given the chance to witness a live performance.

When I was studying Drama at A Level, our class adored those theatre trips.  Those visits gave us invaluable insights into the workings of the theatre as well as broadening the content of our viewing. We’d sometimes organise trips between us but that would always be to see a musical, so we missed out plays. The trips organised by our tutors were always plays by the best authors and companies. Our tutors introduced us to incredible work that we might not have chosen to see ourselves. I remember seeing The Overwhelming by Out of Joint theatre company. It was such an intense piece of theatre that I still think about it today. If my tutors hadn’t organised that trip, then I wouldn’t had that opportunity. (It also featured Andrew Garfield – Spiderman!)

Those trips also gave us an excellent chance to bond as a group. We were preforming together regularly so it was important that we all got along and doing something that we all loved gave us the opportunity to get to know each other. So it benefitted us socially too!

Most importantly, watching a live production enables the craft to be modelled for the students.  They need to see the control of an actor in character, the energy of an ensemble and, most of all, the hard work that goes into a production! Recordings can deliver a shade of the emotional impact of a play but, in my opinion, nothing beats sitting in a theatre and immersing yourself into a world.

If exam boards want to cut the live viewing then surely this move is akin to training teachers without putting them in the classroom.

 


I’d never seen a Tennessee Williams play.  It’s not something I’d noticed before but when I left Theatre Clwyd on Monday night I realised just how deprived I’d been.

My friend and I had, on a complete last-minute whim, got tickets for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  We’re so lucky to live so close to Theatre Clwyd and we really don’t visit as often as we should. (I realised my last visit was to see Avenue Q – almost a year ago!) It’s a beautiful theatre and the front of house staff are always very friendly.

The set for the production was absolutely beautiful, focusing on Brick and Maggie’s bedroom with a rich sunset as a backdrop, which subtly darkened with the plot. The Mississippi skyline was so stunning I could have watched it all night.

I was surprised by the amount of comedy in the play. I didn’t know much about Cat (and I purposefully kept it that way after booking tickets, to avoid spoilers) but I’d heard it was heart-breaking and bleak. This was very true, but there were still some lovely, natural comedy moments – such as Maggie constantly referring to her nieces and nephews as ‘no-neck monsters’, Brick subtly labelling Gooper and Mae as ‘huffers and puffers’ in the bedroom, and Big Daddy’s frustration at Big Mama’s cheerfulness and fussing. A lot of the light-heartedness carries an underlying poignancy. We laughed as Big Daddy rolled his eyes at Big Mama and chided her for being so jolly, but when he cruelly refuses to blow the candles out on his birthday cake and accuses her of never loving him, we’re suddenly given a dark insight into their marriage, and can’t help but feel sympathy for Big Mama.

Desmond Barrit and Abigail McKern are perfect as Big Daddy and Big Mama. At times I thought the dialogue could easily have been performed with melodramatic cries and over the top wails, but every beat was grounded and natural. Big Daddy’s passion and, well, arrogance for life when he thinks he is in good health is heart-breaking and even more so when Brick delivers the news that he is actually dying. Barrit delivered a truthful reaction to this discovery, conveying delicately Big Daddy’s utter devastation.

Another strong focus is the relationship between Maggie and her husband, Brick, who gets slowly drunk throughout the play. Maggie is frustrated with her marriage as Brick refuses to sleep with her, and it’s heavily hinted that Brick is repressing his sexuality and was in fact in love with a fellow football player. Gareth David-Lloyd brings a sharp coldness to the haunted Brick, whilst Catrin Stewart shines as the exasperated Maggie, delivering her catty remarks towards Brick and his family with pure venom.

Catrin Aaron is also brilliant as pushy-mum and interfering sister-in-law Mae. It’s never quite certain whether her and Gooper’s apparent attempts to get their hands on Big Daddy’s inheritance are real or bad mindedness and jealousy on Maggie and Brick’s part, but nosy Mae provided some wonderfully comic moments as she regularly comments on their relationship.

Cat certainly gives a very bleak comment on family life as this family seems to be built on ‘mendacity’. The final scene leaves the audience frustrated as Maggie and Brick continue to remain in their dangerous and uncomfortable position (like cats on hot tin roofs) and Big Daddy’s health takes a turn for the worse. Brick reluctantly agreeing to remain with Maggie – despite despising her – and giving her a child to make his dying father happy is tough to watch and makes for a miserable and suffocating ending.

So, my first Tennessee Williams play was brought to life perfectly by a stellar cast and an incredible creative team. I cannot fault this production and, after leaving Mold with a promise to return more often, I’ve already booked tickets for the next production at Theatre Clwyd.

 

It’s no secret – I bloody love EastEnders. I could quite happily write a full thesis on my love for this programme, but I will try to condense it to a few hundred words.

Murder, deceit, cockneys. What’s not to love?

My love for EE goes way back. I remember crying as a child when Tiffany died outside the Vic, watching in horror as Dennis was stabbed and the goosebumps as Danielle died in Ronnie’s arms. (Am I showing my morbid side? It’s not just about the deaths….honest.)

I can understand these characters. I don’t know what it is but I find them so real and relatable. Far more than any other soap. (In fact, I only watch EE.) For me, this is the programme that delivers the hard hitting, true to life stories. The stories that get people talking in work, on the street and across all media platforms. It’s true, a few years ago the Square took a bit of a dive and lost its direction. I’m proud to say I stuck with it through these dark times and in the autumn of 2013 things began to pay off. I think the clouds first parted when Queen Ronnie stepped out of the nick. For me, that was the moment EastEnders got it’s groove back.

Of course, it was all down to Dominic Treadwell Collins taking over the helm. DTC has done an amazing job. His passion for the show fizzes through the screen. It’s in the writing….the performances….the whole look of the show! He’s given us bold stories such as Patrick’s stroke, Cora’s homelessness, Jonny Carter’s coming out storyline, Linda’s rape and Sharon and Phil’s wedding shoot-out. Not to mention the juggernaut that is the Murder of Lucy Beale. DTC is a genius, bringing new life to characters and bringing the Square’s history back to the forefront of the show. The character of Jane Beale, for example, wandered mindlessly around the Square for years before she finally departed, having seemingly run out of steam. With the Lucy Beale storyline, DTC has given Jane a new lease of life, as well as providing Laurie Brett the chance to flex those acting muscles. Laurie isn’t the only one. Each cast member has had their chance to shine. There are no favourites. They all have their moments. Another act of brilliance from DTC.

Easties also introduced something special which has given the show a new edge – the surprise return. I was totally bowled over when Jane made a surprise appearance two years ago. Since then we’ve had many a shock come back (Honey, Anthony, Rainie and, more recently, Lucas!). These returns aren’t sensationalised and gratuitous. It’s always the right time for the character to appear – DTC knows what he’s doing. We couldn’t discuss comebacks without talking about the mother of all returns – Kathy Beale. DTC certainly wins the Biggest Balls award for bringing back a legendary character that had been ‘dead’ for years. Things could have easily gone wrong and, although Kathy has seemed to settle back into the Square rather quickly, her return was believable and handled with care.

It’s not just the returns that DTC is good at. He’s also introduced some potentially legendary characters. I should start with the Carters, who have been a breath of fresh air in the Queen Vic. The Square needed a solid family unit and Mick and Linda are the perfect pair to run our favourite fictional public house. My favourite Carter has to be Aunt Babe. Cuddly and harmless on the outside, manipulative and cruel on the inside. Fantastic. I’ve been pretty vocal about my love for the Cokers (long may they stay) but I also think Vincent, Claudette, Kush and Carmel have made wonderfully interesting additions to the cast.

The writing supersedes any other soap. It’s real. You can tell from the Live Week episodes that the writers work tirelessly to produce top quality scripts. They know the characters inside out and they believe in what they are writing. If I could capture a fraction of that in my own writing, I’d be very happy.

For me, it’s not just about the big stories. EastEnders constantly delivers heartfelt, poignant moments – from Christine’s introduction to FatBoy’s tragic demise. What makes the show truly enjoyable to watch is that it’s clear everyone involved loves being a part of it. Producers, writers, actors, crew….they all care about the Square!

Just as the excitement of Christmas and New Year has died down (on par with New Year’s Day 2015 – I am still in shock over that car crash), we’ve been dealt an emotional week that’s included Stacey teetering on the Queen Vic roof, Kat finding out she has a secret son and a tearful goodbye to Charlie Slater.. (Can we all just applaud Derek Martin, please?)

So, yes. My love for Easties is strong and DTC certainly has a spot reserved on my Shelf of Writing Heroes. Based on this week alone, I think 2016 will be a fantastic year for the Square, and I will certainly be watching. Always.

 

EastEnders has always been very special to me. When people ask me if I like it, I say ‘No. I live it.’ For me, EastEnders is a life choice. It’s the only soap I can watch and I think of these characters like real people that I visit four nights a week. (Wednesdays are so depressing).

But enough about my love for Albert Square. This week I want to talk about something deeply moving that has come somewhat out of the blue. Amongst the high-profile storylines like Kathy’s Return, the Linda/Dean Saga and the juggernaut that is the Lucy Beale Story, something modest and almost unnoticed has blossomed into a powerful piece of drama.

I am, of course, talking about Christine.

Dominic Treadwell Collins brought EastEnders back from the brink of death by injecting a mix of believable, edge-of-seat storylines and well-crafted characters. I was a fan from the moment the Cokers arrived. It was lovely to have a ‘normal’ (whatever that is), happy couple on the square. Whilst Lin Blakley (Pam) proved her talent at the emotional stuff when it was revealed Pam had helped her son to die, I was guilty of thinking Roger Sloman (Les) was more of a comedy actor. His gurning and over the top pronunciation painted Les as a loveable misery-guts who perhaps wouldn’t be out of place in a Carry On film. Then Paul arrived and the dream team was complete. It’s great to see the grandparents-grandson dynamic on screen, having been part of that family set up myself. Although I still think we need to see more from Paul, Jonny Labey has created a loyal and confident character, who isn’t without his faults, and who has a strong, protective relationship with his grandparents, particularly Pam.

So, for months, we’ve been speculating over Les’ supposed affair with Claudette (another fantastic character introduced by DTC) and last Monday Les finally revealed to a gobsmacked Pam that he had an alter-ego called Christine. Now, I had my suspicions for a few weeks that Les was cross-dressing (I’m an EastEnders expert – not much gets past me) and I must admit I was worried. After Les’ previous comedy scenes I was worried that the storyline might mock Les and his situation. Thankfully this didn’t happen.

Instead, we got a beautifully written and sensitively performed piece of drama. The focus has been less on what Les is wearing and more on the fact he has kept it a secret for so long. Friday’s scenes were extremely powerful. I found myself wanting to skip through all the Kathy and Ben stuff (even though they have been brilliant) to get back to the Coker’s kitchen table. I felt the same butterflies as Pam as she waited to meet Christine and when she finally made an appearance I was touched by Christine’s fragility. The moment Paul walked in was truly shocking, as the scene beforehand was so engrossing the sound of the front door opening provoked a genuine flutter of panic.

What EastEnders has done is incredible. Les doesn’t want to be a woman. He isn’t transgender and he isn’t gay – he is still utterly in love with Pam. For Les, Christine is a coping mechanism. He spends his days suppressing emotion and acting in the conventional and socially acceptable male way. For Les, Christine is his chance to express his emotions. She is simply another part of Les. EastEnders are giving us a highly believable and modern storyline. I know lots of men who feel pressurised to be that archetypal male. I’ve felt that pressure myself (remember cardigan-gate?). When Les explained that he needed to be feminine in order to express his emotion I completely understood. Les has become a victim of the pressures of society that many of us feel and feels that crying or grieving would betray his masculinity, therefore he has to appear female in order to do those things. I also think that it’s refreshing that EastEnders have chosen to give this story to an older character. I know a few people who would think that only the younger generation experience this sort of crisis, and would proudly say ‘Oh, you never saw this when I was younger!’. Well, they’re wrong. And stupid.

Lin Blakley has been magnificent as Pam has tried to come to terms with no longer knowing the man she loves, whilst Roger Sloman has surprised us with a moving performance as Les and Christine. I hope he gets the recognition he deserves. I’m sure this storyline will continue along a sensitive and realistic path. As much as I understand Pam’s frustration, I really want to see Pam and Les patch up their problems. Pam is a force of support within the Square and I’d love to see her support her husband. I want to see more of Christine and I don’t want to see her used as a figure of ridicule (hmm….not happy with you, Eamonn Holmes).

Whatever happens, I hope the Cokers, all four of them, are around for a very long time.

‘Torchwood. Outside the government, beyond the police…’

Just when I thought nothing would top my Doctor Who obsession, everything changed in 2006.

I’d returned from a trip to London to see Wicked (I know….when obsessions collide!) when BBC3 introduced me to Torchwood. I loved it from episode one. As a 16 year old, I was able to look past the clichés and faux-adultness of the first series (something which is easier to pick up on when I re-watch as a 25 year old). For me it was fresh and brooding and totally exhilarating. Not only was it brand new, but it had the familiarity of my favourite TV programme. I loved them all – Jack, Owen, Gwen, Ianto, Susie and Tosh. Each in their own way.

Toshiko Sato was my favourite. Sensible and understated, she was a complete contrast to the rest of the team. Unlike Gwen, Jack and Owen, she wasn’t brash and bold. Toshiko was modest and quietly calculating. Toshiko was often the one to come up with a conclusion without getting the recognition within the team that she deserved. She was wonderfully flawed, with her insecurities and moral deviations explored in Greeks Bearing Gifts. Naoko Mori had created a classic character for me. I thought she was brilliant and quietly (and sometimes noisily) cheered every time Toshiko delivered a stinging one liner.

The second series saw a spikier Toshiko. She’d clearly had enough of Jack’s swaggering charm as Toshiko got ballsy – airing her disagreement with Jack many times. It also brought some of my favourite Toshiko moments. From subtle comedy (‘All. Telephone lines. Are. Down!’) to high emotion (Walking through the bay at the end of To the Last Man. *wipes tear*). Naoko certainly flexes her acting muscles in this series. I will never…NEVER…get over Exit Wounds. The fact Naoko did that scene in one take just proves her ability and what an asset she was to the series, and of course, Toshiko left doing what she does best; saving the world. Toshiko doesn’t do this with dazzling flare or swaggering arrogance. She does it quietly without any expectation of credit. She’s just doing her job. I need to go away and weep about this for a moment…. 

So anyway, having been such a Tosh-fan for so long, you can imagine my excitement when Naoko was announced as a guest at Wales Comic Con. I never miss WCC but this year I had no excuse – I had to be there. I’d already met Gareth David Lloyd and embarrassed myself in front of Eve Myles (and Shane Richie….but that’s another story) and this year I was given a fresh Torchwood member to meet. And by ‘meet’ I obviously mean ‘stare at with a terrified expression on my face as my best friend tries to force me to make cringey small talk’. It was Naoko Mori’s turn to get the full starstruck-me experience. What a lucky lady. The excitement I had harboured for weeks dissipated as I entered the main hall and turned to an anxious, stomach twisting panic. I could see her through the crowd, no queue at her desk. A normal person would have seized the opportunity and rushed straight over. Not me. I circled the room several times, building up the courage to go and speak to Naoko. Eventually my friend encouraged/bullied me to bite the bullet. Naoko was, of course, lovely and I had no reason to be such a mumbling idiot. She shook my hand (she touched my hand! That means we’re engaged, right?) and even rubbed my hand through her hair to prove she was ‘just normal’ (and obviously the photos look like I’m awkwardly trying to slam her head into the table. Classic.) The Q&A with Naoko and Eve Myles was hilarious. Like, actually cheek-hurting hilarious. I bet they had lots of fun making Torchwood.

So anyway, now that I’ve confessed my love for a fictional character (again) and her non-fictional actor, I suppose what I’m really trying to say is:

Torchwood writers, stop messing about.  Just bring it back.  You know it makes sense. You’d make a lot of people happy. Oh…and, even though it had its perks, we’re all willing to forget Miracle Day if you just bring back Tosh, Owen and Ianto. Just bring them back, no questions asked. It’s fine. We will forgive the lack of plausible explanation just for the chance to have another series with the full team. We miss them.

Oh and Naoko, call me.

It started with a sleepy Sunday on the sofa. Absent-mindedly flicking through channels, with my Jack Russell Fred curled on my lap, I came across Bugsy Malone.

I’m instantly transported to 2004. Bugsy was my first venture into amateur theatre. At 14, I was in total awe of how amazing the show was. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t that great, but to the 14 year old me it was incredible. I remember the vivid colours of the staging, the glare of the spotlight, the goosebumps as the band played the overture, the jitters as I waited backstage to repeat my handful of lines.

I remember sitting in the dressing room during between the Saturday matinee and evening performance, half costumed, eating snacks and drinking Lucozade.

I remember laughing so hard during the finale of our first performance as myself and my friends, some old, some new, got splurged one by one and the stage descended into a chaotic mess of cream and shaving foam. I remember being super happy and proud.

I’ve been part of lots of productions since and the tingles never fade.

I always took that part of my life for granted and it is only recently, after being off-stage for about 18 months, that I’ve realised just how important that time was to me. I met people I will never forget and I had experiences that have shaped who I am today.

It is devastating to read about the cuts to the arts that are happening.  I believe that the arts are key to our future, not just as a country, but as individuals. I’m passionate about theatre for young people and I do my small part to encourage it within my teaching. The closure of our theatre was just one in a long line and I’ve often said how sad it is that places like this can’t be supported more. The media are always talking about giving our children something to do to get them off the streets – well, being on the stage not only occupied us but gave us a sense of pride and pleasure and allowed to explore who we are.

Needless to say, my sleepy Sunday turned into a quite a nostalgic afternoon.

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(Some of the gang in 2013, the year before our final show.)

There’s nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as messing about in boats’. – Ratty, Wind in the Willows.

Well, actually, Ratty old chap, I disagree because a picnic in the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre seems very much worth doing!

A bunch of us went to see Wind in the Willows at the Chester theatre on Sunday afternoon. The performance was fantastic and the afternoon was topped by glorious weather. I didn’t really know much about Wind in the Willows before the show – I have vague memories of a stuffy cartoon version when I was younger but that’s it – but I left totally impressed. The story was told in a vibrant, energetic fashion, with super-slick movement between scenes. Imaginative use was made of the seemingly limited performance space, performed in the round, even making use of the area around the outside of the theatre. Special mention must go to the slow-mo battle scene inside Toad Hall which was cleverly choreographed (‘That’s amazing!’ gasped an audience member!). This was certainly the most creatively staged performance I have seen in a very long time. Using only props, the cast were able to effectively portray everything from Mole’s cosy underground home to the echoing corridors of Toad Hall.

Speaking of the cast – I am in total awe of them. I realised afterwards that the same cast is used for all three performances currently playing at the theatre (Wind in the Willows, Romeo & Juliet and The Merry Wives of Windsor). This is further credit to their talent as each member takes on multiple roles across three very different plays! Their versatility was evident in Willows as many performed dual roles. Toad, Badger and Mole were perfectly cast with Daniel Goode skilfully winning over the audience as the flawed but somehow likeable Toad. Thomas Richardson stole a couple of scenes in the second act as the bondage enthusiast washerwoman. Although it’s tough to choose favourites, I did really like the Ferrets. I’ve met a few Ferrets and Ellie Burrow, Adam Harley and Louise Kempton were remarkable to watch as the paper-work and protocol-obsessed Ferrets. But I must say, the whole cast was amazing – each one of them gave a performance bursting with energy. I’m sure they shared as many laughs creating this show as the audience did watching it.

Performance aside, it should also be mentioned that we were very well looked after. Sunday was a scorcher but plenty of sun cream and water was supplied by the stewards to ensure we were comfortable – which was much appreciated!

Apart from the odd case of picnic-jealousy (still wishing I’d pinched that lady’s cheesecake), it was a lovely way to spend a summer Sunday and I would absolutely recommend it. We’ll definitely be going again!